May 24, 2019

Anti-LNG group seeks ballot inspection

PERRY – Questions raised about alleged “irregularities” in a recent town vote prompted an anti-LNG group to present a petition to the town clerk over the weekend, requesting they be allowed to inspect ballots that dealt with the referendum.

The group, Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth, presented the petition.

On March 26, voters approved 229 to 211 a deal with an Oklahoma-based liquefied natural gas developer. Quoddy Bay LNG agreed to pay the town $3.6 million per year over the next 25 years in return for a tank farm they want to build in the town. The tank farm eventually would connect with an LNG terminal at neighboring Pleasant Point.

“The citizen action group deems this [ballot inspection] necessary in order to seek answers to questions that have been raised concerning possible irregularities with the vote,” the group said in a prepared press release issued Monday. “Because election law seals the voting records for a period of 60 days, this action is necessary to have a look at the records within a time frame that makes any sort of follow-up action viable.”

Town Clerk Janice Scanlon could not be reached for comment Monday.

David Turner, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, also could not be reached for comment on the petition, but did issue a statement in support of the process. “Democracy works,” he wrote. “The people of Perry have spoken and have given their endorsement to the agreement. As we go forward, I hope that some of the bitterness, divisiveness and personal animosity that have characterized the debate [over LNG] will fade into the background.”

The inspection is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Perry Municipal Building.

The requested inspection is to include all ballots and records required by law kept in connection with absentee ballots, including the applications for absentee voting and also including all voter registration cards submitted to the town in 2007, the incoming voter list, and all other election paperwork, the group said in its release. A total of 59 Perry voters, who cast ballots in the March 26 election, signed the petition.

“While we have faith in the election process, several Perry voters have phoned with concerns, and we feel it is best to see if answers can be found,” Robb Cook, a member of the group, said in the release. “Knowing that both proponents and opponents of the LNG issue would not like to have the town bound to a decision that is over-shadowed by doubt, it seems prudent to ask for this inspection.”

In all, 442 residents out of 630 registered voters cast ballots on March 26.

Two of the town’s three selectmen negotiated the annual payment from the company. This is not the first time voters were asked to approve a contract with the developer. Several years ago they turned down a $1 million agreement with Quoddy Bay LNG.

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